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Hellraiser (1987)   Leave a comment

“We’ll tear your soul apart.”

Clive Barker’s creepy masterpiece about a Pandora’s Box-like puzzle which opens a portal to a nasty, torture-filled realm still brings shivers to my spine. Andy Robinson, in an unusual nice-guy role, stars as Larry. He’s newly married to Julia (Clare Higgins) who’s not very nice. To give you some idea, she has sex with her husband’s brother (Sean Chapman) atop her wedding gown.

“Nope. No cavities, baby. Now let’s get it on before my brother gets home.”

Sweet. Anyway, Frank, the sexy brother, has gone and gotten himself captured by cenobites and lives in constant pain and torment in some nether world. He escapes and needs blood to bring him back to his former hot, and yet depraved self. Since Julia lost her blood bank library card, she fulfills Frank’s desires for vital fluids by luring lonely, horny men back to her place for a bit of bouncy-bouncy. Hijinks and claw hammers to the head ensue. Oh wait, I mentioned cenobites. Did I forget to describe them? Cenobites are pale, leather-clad creatures with bizarre piercings who show up whenever someone solves the puzzle box. They look like the Harkonnens at a Berlin S&M club.

“Come here often?”

Cenobites inhabit this weird, hinted at torture dimension and only come out to recruit new meat. Frank escapes from the Marquis de Sade’s rumpus room and brings Pinhead and his pals out into the light to sic them on Larry and his grown daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), for whom he has decidedly non-avuncular thoughts.

Kirsty realizes Rubik has an evil twin.

Kirsty has to fight off Julia and Frank and an evil gang dressed like kinky art students to save herself and her dad. She does a good job of it too. She’s a strong character who thinks on her feet. When we first meet her, Kirsty’s not thrilled with her father’s recent marriage, but she doesn’t fall into the trap of doubting her own suspicions. It’s refreshing.

Julia’s a little cold around the heart.

The acting in Hellraiser lifts the film above other horror films of the era. Laurence convinces as the young woman faced with saving herself and her family from eternal damnation. Along with Laurence, Robinson, Higgins, and Chapman, Doug Bradley, as the leader of the cenobites, gives a wonderful performance. Bradley is menacingly calm. He never raises his voice. He doesn’t have to. His threats are real.

“Honey, the Welcome Wagon’s here!”

I like the Hellraiser series. It’s grisly and dark and the cenobites are cool. They don’t get enough screen time in this film, but they’re impressive and unlike any other baddies in 80s films. We also get to hear the tension punctuated by Christopher Young’s terrific score every time they appear. It’s a dramatic and scary combination.

If Clive Barker directed Brazil.

Hellraiser is gory and over-the-top and one of my favorite horror films of the 80s.






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